What Do We Really Need to Do to Be Close to God?

I’ve been attending an amazing Bible study taught by a woman in my church, Cathy Deddo, who does “manuscript studies.” That’s where the Bible passages are printed out in manuscript form, no verses delineated, just lines for reference points.

We’re studying the Gospel of John. I would like to share insights from this study here on this blog.

One of the life-transforming truths I’m gleaning from John is the whole idea of abiding (from John 15). “There is only one vine, Jesus, and we can either choose to remain connected to it, or we can cut ourselves off from it. The main thing we need to do as Christians is abide in the vine.”

Recently, I spent time with a friend who, I discovered, follows a “spiritual master” and wakes at 3 a.m. to meditate for 4 hours. “Why?” I asked, amazed.

“Well, you know,” she said. “If you want to be close to God, there are certain things you have to do to get there.”

I said, “Not really. All I think I’m asked to do is abide.”

I believe this is the great Good News of the Christian message. We really do not have to do anything. Religion says you have to follow all these rules. But Jesus said, “Abide in me, the same way you’ve seen me abiding in my Father. You see our relationship, one of complete trust. Now trust me, abide in me, the same way. It’s all about relationship. I am the vine, you are the branches. Just abide in me, and the rest comes naturally, like fruit from a vine that is rooted in good soil.”

One thing abiding means, I’m discovering, is that I don’t have to try to give anything I have not first received from Jesus. Like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, the main thing is to listen first. Martha was all agitated by everything she had to do. Mary first sat and listened, and Jesus said she chose the better way.

Perhaps Mary then got up and helped Martha. Peacefully. Full. Able to give, able to do, because first she listened. First she remained at Jesus’ feet.

Abide. Abide in God’s love. Isn’t that simple? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t that freeing?